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Opening Statement of The Honorable Michael Michaud, Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing today.

Providing veterans timely, quality health care in a safe environment is a focus of this Committee and one I stand firmly behind.

We have authorized and appropriated billions of dollars for the Department of Veterans Affairs construction programs over the past decade.  It is important that we provide vigilant oversight on the resulting process of building and leasing of VA facilities.

Just this year, we have held three hearings on the VA’s construction program and processes.  In May, a Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing examined the VA’s construction policy.  In June, the Full Committee examined VA’s capital investment options.  And today, we are examining the persistent challenges VA faces in their Major Medical Facility and Lease Programs.

As you know, there have been multiple reviews conducted by the Office of Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, and this Committee, on VA’s ability to manage a construction portfolio efficiently and effectively.

Unfortunately, most of those reviews have repeatedly pointed out serious issues of mismanagement, lack of oversight, overages on expenditures, delays in construction, and multiple instances of insufficient guidance.

In efforts to manage their construction programs, VA deployed the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services, or CARES process, more than a decade ago.  Most recently, the Strategic Capital Investment Plan, or SCIP, was introduced to formulate VA’s construction budget for Fiscal Year 2012.  SCIP is a 10 year plan that integrates all capital investment planning across the three administrations.

It seems, however, that even though VA has a plan, they struggle to execute it.    

For example, in October of this year, the Inspector General released a report on VA’s management of the seven Health Care Center Leases that were authorized in P.L. 111-82. 

We were told by VA that these Health Centers would be up and running by 2012.  To date, according to the VA IG report, only three of the seven leases have been awarded and none are operational.  Additionally, I understand that cost overruns and delays have plagued the process.

Mr. Chairman, I am very concerned.  First, I am concerned that the Committee is not getting accurate information from the onset, and so I have to question for what are we authorizing these funds?

Secondly, the veteran community is constantly being let down when a promised facility is not delivered on time.

I consider it a major disservice to the veterans who rely on VA to provide needed and very important health care services.

I hope we hear today from VA what they are going to do to address past problems and delays, how they are going to get things back on track, and what can be done to avoid similar problems in the future.

Thank you Mr. Chairman and I yield back my time.